If there’s one thing SRE professionals and DevOps engineers lack, it’s time. After all, engineers need to oversee a variety of processes—like ensuring operational stability, conducting integration testing, and maintaining cybersecurity—to make sure their apps are working optimally. The list goes on and on.
With heavy workloads and tight deadlines, there’s little time to waste on software issues stemming from internal collaboration issues. But this is often reality—especially when working with a large team of distributed developers with different schedules, skill sets, language barriers, and agendas.
In order to streamline development, many teams are increasingly turning to automation solutions like Jenkins to accelerate and improve DevOps workflows. Jenkins is a free, open source, Java-based automation server used for building and testing software projects.
More than just a platform, Jenkins offers an entirely different approach from traditional software development.
In this post, we’ll explain how Jenkins helps avoid production bottlenecks, leading to a faster and more efficient development environment—and better software because of it. We’ll also provide some free tools that you can use to learn Jenkins from the ground up.
Jenkins is a continuous integration (CI) tool. It allows developers to integrate code earlier in the application development process than they typically would.
Traditionally, developers had to wait until after software was built to test for errors. Developers on remote teams would submit code into a central repository every day by a certain global cutoff time, wait for it to go through an aggregated “nightly build,” and then analyze the code for errors. This process was extremely time-consuming, expensive, and inefficient, among other things.
Jenkins was created to streamline this process considerably. By merging software test and verification services directly into a build environment, Jenkins enables entire teams of developers to document, build, test, deploy, and analyze their code, and strategically move on to new sections when they are ready.
At any point, a developer can take code from a central repository, run it through a CI server, and validate testing on a rolling basis. Rejected code can also be returned to a developer for timely corrections, enabling them to patch buggy code right away. The end result is a system that is far more agile and conducive for team collaboration—one that enables teams to deliver modern software experiences to their users much more smoothly.
Jenkins, it should be noted, is a widely used platform, and a member of the Continuous Delivery Foundation (CDF)—a vendor-neutral association that promotes training, industry guidelines, and portability.
Jenkins has been around since 2004. While there are many other solutions available today—like Red Hat Ansible Automation, Azure DevOps Projects, and Microsoft Team Foundation Server—Jenkins continues to maintain a strong and loyal user base.
Let’s examine why this is the case.
Here are some of the top reasons today’s leading engineers choose to use Jenkins.
Jenkins runs on open source servlet containers like Apache Tomcat, meaning teams can use the software without having to purchase restrictive licenses. In fact, you don’t have to purchase any licenses to use Jenkins. The only stipulation is that Jenkins slaves must be able to access a Ranrorex license server.
As an open source solution, Jenkins is also flexible by design and can often integrate into existing software toolchains.
Since Jenkins is open source, there is no customer service hotline to call when you need support. However, Jenkins more than makes up for this with a particularly strong user community.
There are many opportunities to network with other Jenkins users, ask experienced users for help, improve documentation, or review changes to code or docs. This is one of the top reasons so many people continue to use Jenkins, despite the variety of new CI solutions in the market.
One of the best parts about Jenkins is that there is no cost to use the software. There are also a variety of free Jenkins plugins available to augment and extend the software—like Dashboard View instance portal, Folders for organizing jobs, or Monitoring for analyzing performance.
Jenkins is built with Java, meaning it’s easily portable to a variety of leading platforms. Java, after all, is platform-independent. As a result, Jenkins is extremely flexible. You don’t have to throw out your favorite tools to give it a whirl.
Now that you have a general overview of Jenkins, chances are you’re wondering how to get started. Fortunately, there are numerous resources to get you up to speed on this powerful tool.
First, head over to the official Jenkins User Documentation center. There, you’ll find a library of helpful content and guided tours—like tips for getting started, creating your first pipeline, and running multiple steps. Further, Jenkins also offers user generated tutorials and blog posts that provide additional insights.
Udemy offers a course for just $9.99 that provides an introductory overview to the Jenkins build server—including step-by-step deployment techniques.
Led by user Jason Taylor, this course teaches participants how to install Jenkins CI server on Windows; understanding the basics of continuous inspection, integration, and deployment; applying techniques to implement Jenkins; installing and configuring common Jenkins tools; and using Jenkins effectively for testing, analyzing, and deploying Java projects.
Edureka offers some great free Jenkins content for beginners, with posts like “What is Jenkins?,” “Install Jenkins in 5 Simple Steps,” and “Jenkins Pipeline Tutorial: A Beginner’s Guide to Continuous Delivery.”
Guru99 offers a free, three-day course for people who want to learn Jenkins from scratch. The course teaches users how to install Jenkins, create pipelines and jobs, and integrate with a variety of tools.
Guru99’s syllabus includes the following tutorials:
There is an entire Jenkins YouTube channel, too. So if you’re a visual learner, head to YouTube to access a range of tutorials, tips, project meetings, and more.
Here are some some of the most popular videos:
Once you get familiar with Jenkins, Stackify offers a tool called Retrace that enables you to diagnose, improve, and accelerate performance across every stage of development. Moreover, Retrace can discover bugs during development, monitor deployments and production performance, and troubleshoot production problems.
Retrace has an official plugin, the Stackify Deployment Recorder, which provides visibility into when deployments happen and how they affect application performance, along with visual indicators as to when events take place and what is happening inside of an application.
Stackify is a great tool for QA and production environments, for centralized logging and error tracking, robust application monitoring, and application and server metrics.
And the best part? You can sign up for a 14-day free trial to see if the tool is right for you.